Contact details

As well as being a freelance writer I am also a qualified counsellor and I work for a low cost counselling service in Exeter and for the NHS Gender Clinic also in Exeter.

Simultaneously, I work as a Disability Member of the First Tier Tribunal, Social Entitlement Chamber sitting on disability benefit tribunals on an ad hoc basis.

As a writer I specialise in writing about disability and health.

My articles have been published in the Guardian, Times, OUCH! [BBC disability website], Disability Now, Broadcast, Lifestyle [Motability magazine], The Practising Midwife, 'Junior, Pregnancy & Baby', Writers' News, Able, Getting There [Transport for London magazine], Junior, Community Care, DPPi [Disability, Pregnancy & Parenthood International]. I have also had articles commissioned by Daily Mail.

For more information about me and for examples of my writing please see below.

If you would like me to write an article for your publication, about any aspect of disability, please do get in touch:

Monday, December 23, 2013

2014 - the year supermarkets clamp down on disabled parking abuse?

A few months ago a 64 year old man, Brian Holmes, was killed following a row over a disabled parking space at an Asda store in Bedfordshire.  Alan Watts, 65, was found guilty of manslaughter and has recently been jailed for 5 years.

The abuse of Disabled parking spaces is something that used to really get on my nerves but to a large extent now I have moved out of London it has become less of an issue for me in terms of the abuse I witness on a day to day level. 

Then one very wet Sunday morning in the run up to Christmas I went to a large Tesco near me...  Even though I arrived early most of the disabled spaces are taken and few have blue badges.  When I point this out to the lady on Customer Services she comes up with the excellent excuse 'there is nothing we can do'.

Well it's good to know that Tesco values its disabled customers, er not.  Of course this is the same supermarket chain that didn't seem to give a stuff that they were installing inaccessible self 'pay at pump' machines...  I voted with my feet after experiencing that and have never bought petrol from them since. 

So until Tesco have more of a 'can do' rather than a 'can't be bothered' attitude towards making its stores accessible I'll be making sure I go elsewhere. 

But it will be interesting to see whether the Bedfordshire case opens up the supermarket chains eyes to the depth of emotion that people feel around abuse of disabled parking and how much the issue riles people. 

Will 2014 be the year they finally start fining people for parking in disabled spaces? 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is all publicity good publicity for disabled people?

Article about a man with MS who can usually only walk 10m, who walked 60km in a week to raise money for the MS Society:

I couldn't help wondering if he got the Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance [now called PIP] whether doing, and publicising, something like this could cause him to lose it?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

ITV's 'My Dwarf Family' [their programme title not my ideal wording...]

I can't stand the word Dwarf.  Whilst some short people have reclaimed it using the word just doesn't work for me because it still has too many negative and derogative connotations.

So it was with trepidation that I watched ITV's 'My Dwarf Family' [was on Thursday 15th August, 2013] - a programme which followed 3 families each of which had one or more members who had achondroplasia, the most common form of short stature.

Although the condition is somewhat different to Kniest Syndrome the issue of short stature does throw up similiar issues whatever the label you give it and it is always interesting to see how other people fare.

I really felt for the young couple [the woman had achondroplasia and the man didn't] grappling with the issue of when to have children [she wanted them now, he didn't].  They both seemed to feel, as we did, that they would want a child whether or not it would be short statured.

Having been there and done that, and having ended up with one child who is short statured and one who isn't, I think I can honestly say that the such a seemingly simple decision can turn out to be hugely more complicated when it becomes a reality...

I also really felt for the parents of the young children who were short statured - the whole 'letting go' of your child, getting them to 'act' their age, letting them be independent just seems so much harder when they are so much smaller than their peers.

Indeed the programme opens with a boy, the height of a 4 year old, cycling by a very busy main road - it looked hideously like a bad idea, but this boy was 11.  Most likely his peers would be allowed to do this so why not him?

Whether the decision was easy or hard for his parents I don't know but there is no doubt that if you are a short statured parent [or wannabe parent] you'll face some very tough decisions along the way, it isn't a process for the fainthearted and perhaps that's why we're such a feisty, resilient lot!

If you want to see the programme it's up for a couple of weeks:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Government consultation on the PIP assessment 'moving around' activity - URGENT action needed

The Government is running a consultation on the PIP 'moving around' criteria - it is vital that as many organisations, professionals and disabled people themselves respond to halt their proposed change:
In a nutshell to be eligible for the enhanced rate of PIP [Personal Independence Payment] you mustn't be able to walk more than 20 m, yes a mere 20m.  Previously the proposed distance was a more realistic and better justified 50 m. 
The deadline for responding to this consultation is 5 August 2013 so please do hurry and respond, use the We Are Spartacus webpage here to help formulate your response:
My response was as followed:
Dear Sir/Madam
I feel very strongly that the 50 m PIP moving around criteria should not be reduced to 20 m.
It represents a totally unjustified moving of the disability goal posts so that people who, like myself, have had their mobility difficulties recognised and acknowledged through receipt of Higher Rate of DLA may all of a sudden no longer be eligible for the enhanced rate of PIP. There has been no miracle cure here just a cynical shifting of goal posts.
To limit receipt of the enhanced rate of PIP to those who can effectively only move about between rooms in their house and no further is simply ridiculous and the Government has failed to provide any research justification for the 20m criteria.
Reducing the formerly well established 50 m limit even goes against your own second draft of PIP assessment criteria, Nov 2011 where you state '50 metres is considered to be the distance that an individual is required to be able to walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence'. Where is the justification that now only people who are unable to walk more than 20m should be eligible for enhanced rate mobility component?
Indeed for years the 50 m benchmark has guided access to the built environment and widely used in relation to disability benefits.
Using a 20 m benchmark is unrealistic - it simply does not provide any practical level of mobility. There will be many disabled people with considerable mobility difficulties who may be able to walk 20 m but not over 50, who will lose access to the Motability Scheme which will potentially have a huge impact on their independence , for some it will jeopardise or even mean termination of their employment options/status, with repercussions on other parts of the benefit system.
It's hard to believe that reducing the limit from 50 to 20 m isn't an infringment of the Human Rights Act.
Maintaining the 50 m limit acknowledges that those with mobility difficulties have a right to a certain quality of life, free from isolation, with the option of persisting with practical opportunities eg doing the school run, GP/hospital appointments, shopping, as well as social and employment opportunities secured through having a relatively small amount of help through the enhanced rate of PIP.
Please do not take away the independence of hundreds of thousands of disabled people who have considerable mobility difficulties, the help they need is relatively small but the impact of not having this help would be hugely negative, let alone unjustified.
Yours faithfully
Emma Bowler

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Don't Call Me Crazy, BBC Three - part of It's A Mad World

I'm not interested in TV programmes about celebrities, so they are getting married, having babies, spending money, flaunting themselves, so what.

What I like programmes about REAL people and you couldn't get more real and more raw than the young women on 'Don't Call Me Crazy' on BBC Three last night which launched the channel's 'It's A Mad World' series of programmes looking at mental health issues affecting young people in Britain today.

The programme told the story of a few of the young women in Manchester's McGuinness Unit, where clearly dedicated staff worked hard to try and support them on the path of getting back into the world again.

But their job is not easy because in spite of the fact that the women featured were articulate, insightful and beautiful, and sometimes comic and fun loving too, they are plagued by demons of depression, self harm, suicidal thoughts/attempts and eating disorders.

I couldn't help wondering what has to happen to make a child grow into a young person with such huge issues to contend with but young people today do have so much pressure and so much to contend with, in an increasingly difficult world to live in because of financial, housing and employment worries.

The honesty and courage those young women had to share their experiences with viewers was astonding and I hope that at the very least they've gained something positive, for themselves, from being part of the programme. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Disability Now article - The Growing Pains of a Disabled Parent

No one warns you how hard it is to be a parent, let alone the parent of a disabled child. 

I was talking to another parent of a disabled child the other day and I basically admitted I 'wing' it - I try things out, see if they work and if they don't move on to plan B, C, D... til I find the solution. 

Sure, there's some input from the 'professionals' from time to time but the bottom line is that the 'winging' it that us parents do is the only real way forward.  He totally agreed, saying he did the same, which was somewhat reassuring!

My latest Disability Now article about the trials and tribulations of being a disabled parent of a disabled child is now up on their website:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My latest articles: Wheelchair dancing and an interview with ex serviceman Rory Mackenzie

I've got two articles in the latest edition of the Motability magazine 'Lifestyle'.

The first is about wheelchair dancing [see page 35] and increasingly popular pastime and sport for wheelchair users, and the second is an interview with a great guy called Rory Mackenzie [see page 46] who was injured in Iraq but has gone on to do so many exciting things:

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Special Kind of Mum - BBC THREE programme preview

Check out my preview of the BBC THREE programme 'A Special Kind of Mum' which goes out at 9pm on Tuesday 26 March and is repeated a couple of times after that, see preview for details:

Worth a watch I'd say as the issue of disabled parenting doesn't get a lot of coverage.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Comic Relief or Comic Flop?

I must admit I didn't watch the entire BBC 1 Comic Relief output but I definitely saw enough.

I laughed out loud at two bits - the first was the Master Chef sketch with Dame Edna in it, I just think s/he is brilliant and the second was when James Corden introduced "David who went to school in a mankini, yes he's a primary school teacher... now under surveillence by Social Services..." or some such similar wording.  Hilarious.

What was not quite so hilarious, or in fact not hilarious at all, was the Peter Kay sketch.  Don't get me wrong Peter Kay is one of the funniest people around and I liked the idea that he was doing the opposite to what everyone else does on Comic Relief day ie instead of being active he was doing a sit in.

But that for me was where the humour ended as he was shown being pulled around the country by a group of short statured people.  Why by short people? It was simply unfunny, demeaning and stupid.

As short statured actress Kiruna Stamell points out in her open letter to the BBC/Comic Relief [see link below] some of the money Comic Relief raises goes to anti-bullying projects - but where's the positive representation of short statured people in the Peter Kay sketch?  How would a short statured child have felt about watching that I wonder?

Apparently Zoe Ball also thought it hilarious to make a joke about 'midgets' and Ricky Gervais managed to add his tuppence to deriding disabled people too.

Where are all their quips and digs at black people, gay people, women?  Nowhere that's where.  So why do these comedians/presenters think it's still OK to insult and dehumanise disabled people/short people in the name of humour?

When I challenged the Comic Relief press office on this, this was their total brush off of a response:

Comic Relief aims to raise as much money as possible to help vulnerable people here in the UK and in the world’s poorest countries. The night of television is a light hearted and entertaining programme which does not aim to offend. The BBC has full editorial control of all content on BBC channels and platforms and  the programme is made by the BBC, not Comic Relief.  Please contact the BBC with enquiries about the night of television.

I was insulted for the first time in my life on Saturday purely on the basis of being short statured, coincidence after Comic Relief's coverage on Friday?  You decide.

To read Kiruna's letter to the BBC/Comic relief in full follow this link, she's going to make an official complaint but I suspect she'll get the usual response along the lines of the above:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oscar Pistorius - either way it's a tragedy

It seems that Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend - on purpose or by mistake - either way it's a tragedy.

I get the feeling that some of the people passing judgement on the case have no real insight into the crime culture in South Africa - shootings, car jackings and the like.

Sadly levels of violent crime in South Africa are very high - the country has one of the highest rates of gun murder in the world with over 8,000/year.  What I'm trying to say is that if Pistorius thought there was an intruder in the house that it's quite feasible that that would have push him right to the edge.  And it's impossible to know what you'd do in that state.

Whether forensics can back Pistorius's version of events, or disprove it, remains to be seen.  Cremating the body of the deceased so soon seems a little hasty but I guess these people know what they are doing...

This is the story of a disabled man who had it all, a National and International hero at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.  Whatever happens it's probably going to be very hard for him to get back onto that pedestal.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Moving the disability benefit goalposts

The Government's reform of Disability Living Allowance into Personal Independence Payments is of great concern to many disabled people, check out my latest article for Disability Now on the subject:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ellie Simmonds - what a role model

It's just brilliant seeing Ellie Simmonds popping up on the TV - I've spotted her on Sports Personality of the Year [where she spoke with huge confidence], A Question of Sport [where she got a lot of the answers right and was on the winning team] and this week on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off [where she was made Star Baker].

Her inclusion in these programmes is just so natural, and it's simply great to see a young disabled person [she's just 18 years old] with so much confidence, life and charm.

I hope she realises what an inspiration she is.  I know a lot of disabled people hate the 'i' word but take my son who is also short statured - the only other short statured person he sees is me, so it's just fabulous for him to see someone else who is short not only on TV but right up there with other sportspeople and celebrities.

Let's hope the inclusion of more disabled people like Ellie on TV continues as the norm and doesn't disappear as the memories and intentions following London 2012 fades, what a great legacy that would be.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Never too late? My quest for gait analysis.

Well it's another New Year and top of my list is to go to the doctors to see if they will refer me for 'gait analysis'.

Gait analysis involves someone looking at the way you walk.  They use their observations to establish whether there's anything that should be done to improve the way you walk and your balance eg adjustments to shoes, wearing of insoles, recommending wearing [or not wearing] particular types of shoes etc.

Last year I saw a podiatrist - they diagnose problems with the foot, ankle, lower extremities [that's legs to you and me] - she couldn't believe I had never been referred to a podiatrist and said that if I had seen one in my childhood it could have been very beneficial potentially improving my walking, balance, maintaining joint mobility/flexibility and even reducing the curvature of my spine....

In a way hearing that was a bit of a bitter blow to me because what is done is done but I've always felt that more could have been done to improve my mobility/flexibility or at the very least help me maintain it. 

But having to leave those thoughts aside I'm now determined to look after myself.  Particularly because as I get older I can feel my joints moaning every now and then and my flexiblity is probably slowly decreasing. 

Even though the podiatrist I saw prescribed insoles which I now wear in my shoes all the time, the wear on the soles of my shoes is still not even.  I'm also getting some 'locking' in my hips if I bend over which is hugely painful and means I can't walk until I've 'unlocked' the hip. 

So today I've, at last, booked the doctors appointment to make the gait analysis request.  At the very least I'd like to maintain the mobility and balance that I have, if they could be improved that would be a huge bonus but I'm not expecting miracles this far down the line.

Watch this space.